Two years ago, Lady Margaret Reading entered into a hasty marriage of convenience after her fiancé was murdered, leaving her pregnant and alone. Ironically, she miscarried right after the ceremony, so she retired to her husband's country to estate to recover from her grief. After a while, she began exchanging cordial letters with her husband who remained in London, but she hasn't seen him since their wedding day. They are virtual strangers to one another, but despite that, Megs sets out for the city with two goals in mind: to consummate her marriage with the intent of having the child she so desperately longs for and to seek her revenge against the Ghost of St. Giles, the masked avenger she believes responsible for her finance's death. She just didn't expect to fall in love with the man she was supposed to hate.
Godric St. John is a scholarly gentleman who took up the mantle of the Ghost of St. Giles when his first wife became gravely ill. He couldn't help his wife, but through his masked persona, he could help other people. Nearly every night since his wife's death, he goes out to save lives and rid the slums of ne'er-do-wells. When Megs comes to London, Godric hopes her visit will be brief, so that he can get back to the business of being the Ghost quickly. When she tells him she wants a baby, he's stunned. Despite his new wife's loveliness, Godric doesn't think that he can bed her without feeling untrue to the memory of his beloved first wife, but when he discovers her plan to track down her former finance's killer, he'll do anything to keep her our of harm's way. Each night he spends in Megs's bed stirs emotions he thought long dead, but can both of them find a way to let go of the past in order to make a future with each other?
Lord of Darkness is the third perfect read in a row for me from Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series. I'm not sure if I can do this superbly written book justice with my review, but I'm going to try. This story was intense, passionate, romantic, emotional, and absolutely smokin' hot. The hero is positively to die for. The heroine is a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air all rolled into one. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with all of the previous couples from the series, except one who wasn't present. The other secondary characters are fun and intriguing, and will have me waiting with bated breath for the next book of the series. What more could a girl ask for in a romance novel?
The last two heroes in the Maiden Lane series (Mickey and Winter) were so incredible, I have a hard time playing favorites, but Godric is certainly giving them a run for their money. Not only is he one of Elizabeth Hoyt's best heroes, he's also near the top of my all-time favorites. I instinctively knew when he was only a secondary character in Wicked Intentions that he would make a great hero, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. Godric is a deeply lonely man who began his self-isolation long before his beloved first wife died following a lengthy illness. When the story opens, his sole reason for living is protecting the helpless as the Ghost of St. Giles, but even that has turned into something of a death wish as he recklessly pursues the human filth of the slum. When Margaret arrives unexpectedly, he wants her visit to be over quickly so that he can focus on his mission, but at the same time, she stirs emotions in him that he hasn't felt in a very long time. Still, Godric is so completely broken-hearted, he doesn't think he can or even wants to love again. He's been living half a life since Clara died, perhaps even before that, but Megs brings a spark back into his darkened corner of the world. (I love how the apple tree in his garden was a metaphor for his reawakening.) It's sweet how Godric is jealous of the mere idea of Megs possibly getting the baby she wants from an affair with another man, and how those feelings confuse him. He's intent on protecting Megs no matter what. To this ends, he denies her nothing and would literally do anything and everything to make her happy. I love the way he notices every little thing about Megs and each one makes him fall more deeply in love with her. Aside from his committed sense of justice to the down-trodden, the thing I love most about Godric is that he is a tender, considerate and passionate lover who is fiercely loyal. I'm incredibly curious as to how a long-celibate man like him who doesn't seem like the type to sleep around learned to be such an amazing lover. Perhaps it was natural instinct born out of his sensitive, sensual side, or perhaps it was something he learned from the books he is so fond of. Either way, he's off the charts with his bedroom prowess. And speaking of books, I also loved his scholarly air. Call me crazy, but in my opinion, those half-moon spectacles of his made him even more sexy if that's possible.
Sweet Megs is one of the best heroines I've read in quite a while. I initially couldn't help worrying that she had some scheme up her sleeve what with wanting a baby so urgently, but I shouldn't have been concerned. As it turned out, she simply missed the child she lost and desperately wanted a little one to love and hold and call her own. I loved that Megs was so understanding of Godric's grief and took a gentle approach to getting him to make love to her. She can relate, because she too is feeling rather adrift, still missing her beloved fiancé, while also harboring an insatiable desire for revenge against the man she believes is responsible for his death, namely the Ghost. In spite of that though, when she discovers her husband's secret identity, she instinctively knows that she can trust him, and that he couldn't possibly have done something so heinous. I thoroughly enjoyed Megs's letters that she wrote to Godric over the two years they were married but living apart. They showed that she was rather lonely herself and trying to reach out and connect with her stranger husband, albeit perhaps subconsciously. When Godric finally agrees to make love to her, she tries to make it an impersonal act but can't resist the feelings and sensations he arouses in her body. This gives her moments of confusion and doubt over desiring another man who isn't her dead fiancé, but it doesn't take long before she's giving herself freely to him. I think the best thing about Megs is how intuitive she is to see the lonely man inside Godric who sets himself apart from everyone. It's a beautiful thing that she not only sees that, but wants to do something about it. She made a deal with Godric to leave London when she gets pregnant, but she desperately doesn't want to leave, not for any selfish reasons, but because she simply can't bear the thought of this wonderful man being alone again. Megs was truly a ray of sunshine in Godric's life, bringing him back to life and making him happier than he'd been in a very long time.
Together, Godric and Megs set the pages on fire. Starting with their first real kiss and the small intimacy in the carriage that followed, their relationship was explosively passionate while also being deeply romantic. Their first two love scenes are rather impersonal, as both of them try to hold onto the memory of their dead loves, while also feeling things for one another during the act that they cannot deny. Elizabeth Hoyt is so masterful at writing love scenes that even when they're impersonal, they're still unspeakably beautiful, but nothing compared to when this couple finally did it the right way. That scene was so incredible it took my breath away, so much so, that words fail me to explain how achingly romantic and sensual it was. I didn't think a love scene could possibly get any better than that, but each one that followed was equally as beautiful as the last. Even with Godric and Megs not saying the words until the very end, I could still tell just how much they truly loved one another. This pair was one of the most perfect, made-for-each-other couples I've ever read in a romance.
Lord of Darkness boasts a huge cast of secondary characters, but despite their sheer number, each one stood out in his or her own way. All of the past heroes and heroines except Mickey and Silence put in an appearance. As Godric's best friend, Lazarus has some insights for Meg, and Temperance was there for the Foundling Home. Megs's brother, Griffin, finally tells her the truth about why he married her off to Godric, while Hero lends her support. As a former Ghost of St. Giles and manager of the Foundling Home, Winter offers his support for Godric's efforts, and Isabel is there too. I loved seeing all these characters and their growing families. Several supporting characters from previous books put in appearances and some new ones are introduced too. There are many of them I would love to see get their own book, particularly Hero's nearly blind, younger sister, Phoebe, and perhaps, Godric's sister, Sarah, who was a good friend to Megs. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Her Grace, Megs's great-aunt Elvina's funny little dog and her cute litter of puppies. We also get a little more insight into Maximus, the hero of the next book of the series, Duke of Midnight. He is Hero's brother and when I first met him in her book, he seemed pretty straight-laced and an ardent opposer of the gin trade. My initial impression didn't change here, but there were a few hints of a possible softer side as well as a big secret that's he's hiding. I've always thought that he could make a good hero with the right woman to loosen him up, and it looks like that lady is going to be Artemis, the poor relation and companion of the spoiled, aristocratic Penelope. I've liked her since the first time she appeared as well. Artemis had a few scenes of her own, including a cliffhanger epilogue, that have already begun to build her into an engaging character and have me dying for her book. We also briefly get to meet another new character, someone who is very special to Artemis. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that he already has me thoroughly intrigued and wanting to know more. Unfortunately, at present, Maximus thinks Artemis is completely boring and forgettable, so it will be interesting to see how she changes his mind.
I may have already liked Godric and Megs going into Lord of Darkness, but their story still completely blew me away. It exceeded my wildest expectations, and I hated to see it end. Long-time Elizabeth Hoyt fans will be happy to know that she continues her tradition of a fairy tale that runs parallel to the main story. "The Legend of the Hellequin" was the perfect mirror for Godric and Megs's story and one of the best this author has written so far. Everything was superb: the hero, the heroine, the supporting players, the story and the fairy tale. It was absolute perfection, and I wouldn't change a thing about it. Now I'll be on the edge of my seat, eagerly anticipating the release of Duke of Midnight which is due out in October 2013. Can't wait!
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